sufganiyot {jelly doughnuts}

My hands are shaky as I type. Is it possible grating five pounds of potatoes has caused tennis elbow or a torn rotater cuff?

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. Tonight we usher in the first night of Hanukkah, and we're going to a friend's house tomorrow for a party too, so I donned my Jewish grandma apron and settled in for a latke making session today.

I'm about as Jewish as I am a super model, but the Mr.'s mother is Jewish. Technically my girls are not because their mama is a shiksa, but always one to buck authority, I say they have as much right to their Jewish heritage as they do to my Italian one.

I especially love preparing meals for the Jewish holidays, since food is very symbolic. Last week, while listening to NPR, I overheard an interview about a family that emigrated from Russia. Their first Thanksgiving here was perplexing, because they wanted to know why turkey was customary. In Judaism, almost every food on the holiday table has significance. Apples and honey are served during Rosh Hashanah for hopes of a sweet new year. Leavening agents are forbidden during Passover because there was no time to wait for the dough to rise when the Jews were freed from slavery and made their exodus from Egypt.

Hanukkah, which starts this evening, celebrates a miracle. Like history in every religion, there was much bloodshed that led up to the event, so here's the brief story of why this is called the fesitval of lights. In an attempt to purify the Temple after having been desecrated by the Greeks, it was necessary to burn ritual oil in the menorah for eight nights, yet there was only enough left for one. The menorah was lit anyway, and to everyone's surprise it continued to burn for the entire eight days.

So what does any of this have to with latkes, let alone jelly doughnuts? The importance is really in the cooking method. To celebrate the miracle of that oil lasting eight days, preparing dishes fried in oil are customary.

Truth is, I've wanted to make jelly doughnuts for a long time. I'd been nervous terrified of making donuts for years. I don't know why. Maybe it was the deep fat-frying. Maybe it's the lack of willpower to eat them all hot (I had a weakness for the hot donuts sign that used to light up at Krispy Creme on 23rd Street before Atkins craze took over the world).

Anywho, I worked up the courage recently and test drove Lara Ferroni's recipe. It's one of the best and worst things I've ever done. My jeans can attest to that one. I decided Lara's raised doughnut recipe would be a good starting point.

First thing that had to go was the sheer volume the recipe made. Yes, there are worse problems in the world than having hot doughnuts hanging from the rafters, but I decided it would be more respectable to make less, and also make them mini.

I also decided to streamline the recipe a bit. Honestly, it took a long time before I added yeast doughs to my regular routines because I have little patience (just ask my children). All that proofing is an annoying, yet necessary, formality. Rather than create a starter, or poolish, with some of the yeast, flour and milk, I cut to the chase and just made the dough. Provided your yeast is super fresh, you will thank me for this—it means you're 30 minutes closer to eating hot doughnuts.

As for the gift-giving, we've chosen to keep the commercialism of the holiday season confined to Christmas morning. For our family, the tradition here is preserving their grandma's heritage. Besides, it's much easier to say their letters must have gotten lost when Santa falls short on that yapping electric toy they've been eyeing.

Mini Jelly Doughnuts

Inspired by Lara Ferroni’s recipe for raised doughnuts

Makes 8 to 10

One tip I should mention is how to fill these doughnuts. The first few oozed out the sides, and not in an attractive way like that photo up there. Simply perching the donuts with the filled side pointing up for 10 minutes or so, allowed the jelly to settle into place neatly. Mine fit conveniently in the slots on my cooling racks.

p.s. While a stand mixer makes this incredibly easy, I've also made it with a hand mixer with no problem. If doubling the recipe, though, definitely go with the stand mixer.

1 teaspoon of active dry yeast

1/3 cup milk, heated to 110ºF

1 large egg yolk (save white for later use)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (135 grams) bread flour

2 teaspoons superfine sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons (17 grams) butter, softened

Vegetable oil for frying

Granulated or Confectioner’s sugar, to coat (optional)

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a medium-sized deep bowl, combine the yeast and milk. Stir in half the flour. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat in the egg yolk and vanilla until just mixed, 15 to 30 seconds. Add the remaining flour, sugar and salt, and beat until just mixed, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and beat incorporated and dough is smooth, about 15 seconds.

Cover bowl and let sit in a warm draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Gently press dough down, cover and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Cliffhanger alert: visit my Cuisinart blog to get the complete directions.


  • Kasey

    Love the story and must admit I have always been terrified of doughnuts myself. The waiting time with the yeast always feels like a hassle, but when you bite in, you know it was worth it!

  • Mrs. Jen B

    You know, I’ve made dozens of loaves of bread and hundreds of rolls, but never thought to extend it to doughnuts! This actually looks doable!
    Do you think this basic recipe would work for, say, boston cream doughnuts? I ask because I’m fairly certain that my husband would fall to my feet and do laundry for a month if I made them for him.

  • Aunt Joan

    This is my third request, I think. I feel it dripping down my chin now. I return tomorow. Can you have a half dozen at my house by 4:00?
    Auntie, XOXOXO

  • Robin (Hippo Flambe)

    I am the Jewish parent in my family and we have also chosen to limit our gift giving to Christmas morning. I love your reasoning for your choice. For me it seemed reasonable to go with the traditional Hanukkah, the one that happened without Christmas being at the same time. Plus it also seems traditional that Christmas gifts are just better. There is only so much underwear anyone needs.

  • laura

    If you haven’t already read Miriam’s Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich, I think you’d like it. It’s part memoir and part cookbook (a little more memoir) and it’s very good. It made me learn all I could about keeping a kosher kitchen because even though I’m not Jewish, I love ritual. I don’t keep one, but that book really made me appreciate the effort and pushed me to learning more about it and other religious food customs/rituals/traditions.

  • Jennie

    Mrs. Jen B — I think this would be a great Boston Cream base donut!
    Auntie — You know I would’ve had them there if it was possible. Can’t wait to see you next week. xo
    Kasey — I feel the same way about yeast doughs, which is why I streamlined this a bit. Maybe it’s a good thing they take some effort, though, or else I’d make and eat them way too often.
    Laura — Thanks for the recommendation. It sounds like a lovely book, so much so that I just ordered it from Amazon as a gift for myself.